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Blogs Should Be Written in Standard English
I belong to a lot of blogging groups and networks where people share links to their blogs with the hopes that other members of the groups will read and comment on the blogs and share them on social media. I do a lot of that. There are many people I really like and would like to help by sharing their work, but I can’t. Most people on my Twitter networks are professional people – teachers, authors, professional bloggers, and others with college degrees.
No matter how clever or interesting I find a blog to be, it would not be appropriate to share something that is full of grammatical errors with that audience. If I were to share that sort of blog, I would lose followers. People will make allowances for the kinds of errors made by those who are writing English as a second language if their native tongues have a much different structure than English. Many foreign students who have graduated from American universities still have not mastered the parts of our language that have nothing comparable in their own.
Example: My husband was born in Serbia and grew up speaking Serbian. After graduating from UCLA and speaking English here for over fifty years, he still cannot always use a, an, and the properly because his native language doesn’t have any comparable words before nouns. Americans just naturally say “The house,” “an apple,” etc., because they grew up hearing it. My husband would say “I bought loaf of bread” or “I ate apple.” That sounds strange to American ears, but it has the same effect on an American native listener as hearing someone speak with an accent.
What doesn’t go over well with those who speak and write standard English is reading blogs and articles that any high school English teacher, and I was one, would have marked with a lot of red ink. There are certain mistakes that high school graduates should not be making, and many bloggers I read from groups I belong to make those errors.
Common Mistakes I See that You Can Fix
Use Irregular Verbs Correctly
One error I see frequently is misusing verb tenses. One of the most common is writing or saying “I seen” instead of “I saw.” “To see” is an irregular verb. Regular verbs form the past tense by adding an ed or a d to the end of the verb. Example: I remember becomes I remembered, I cook becomes I cooked. Some verbs, though, form their past tenses differently, and you just have to memorize the correct forms.
Here is a list of the most frequently used irregular verbs. This resource also explains the forms and how to use them. I suggest you check it out if you make any of these mistakes.
To use to go properly in all three tenses, one would say I go (present tense) or I went (past tense) or I have gone (past participle). It is a mistake to say “I gone to the store.” That is using the past participle form as the past tense. It is the same mistake people make when they say “I seen it” instead of “I saw it” or “I done it” instead of “I did it.”
Most American-born English speakers who make these mistakes make them because they hear verbs used this way at home and among friends and this usage seems normal to them. It is not what they were taught in school, unless their teachers also grew up hearing non-standard English. To be taken seriously as a writer or blogger in English, though, you need to write standard English.
I’m not suggesting that you try to memorize the names of the parts of speech. I am suggesting you look at the chart and practice using the tenses properly. Every day, practice reciting the proper forms out loud several times until they seem normal to you. Here’s a list to practice:
I was. They were.
I came. He came with me. They came later.
I did it. She did it, too. They did it all the time.
I drank a glass of water. She drank milk. They all drank lemonade.
I went to the store. She went alone. They went crazy. We went to the movies.
I rang the bell. He rang the bell. They rang the bell.
I ran away. He ran after me, We ran for twenty minutes. They ran a mile.
I saw the show. She saw the dog run down the street. They saw a bank robbery. We saw the new baby.
My sweater shrank. The clothes shrank.
I swam across the river. She swam behind me. We all swam in the new pool.
If you learn these and use them correctly, you will be taken more seriously when you speak and write than if you use them incorrectly. If the sentences above sound strange to you, you need to practice them until they don’t.
Don’t Make Sentence Errors
Sentence errors definitely will keep people from taking you seriously as a blogger. They indicate you haven’t mastered basic writing skills, since the most basic element in writing is the sentence. Some bloggers who have great content make it unsharable by writing in sentence fragments, comma splices, and run-on sentences. Their writing looks something like this.
I love my dog he is so loyal. His giant appetite makes it impossible. To give him enough food to keep him satisfied. He’s always wanting to go for a walk. By the lake next to the park. When it rains and it’s muddy out. He tracks mud back into the house. Yesterday we went for a long walk, we got very muddy.
I think you get the idea. That paragraph contained all three kinds of sentence errors. Did you spot them? Learn more about sentence errors and how to fix them from this video. If you haven’t the patience to watch the video, the content is written out below it. If you want a simpler video, try this one, which is a bit more fun.
If you still have questions or need more information, this is more complete.
It’s Worth the Effort to Clean Up These Mistakes
If you want people to share your blog posts with their social networks, you need to make sure you have mastered writing standard English. Proofread your work carefully to make sure your sentences are complete and are not run-on sentences or comma splices. Get yourself a good reference book on writing and English usage and grammar. I personally use Writers Inc, an English Handbook that is very user friendly. It tells you everything you need to know about how to write in standard English.
Only you can decide to improve your skills. You can continue to be read only by your blogging friends who are more interested in what you say than in how you say it, or you can polish your skills and expand your audience. The choice is yours.
Wikinut Will No Longer Pay Writers
I have not paid much attention to my three articles (nuts) on Wikinut in some time because Wikinut really wasn’t paying enough to merit my spending time writing there. I had signed up after Bubblews started to go downhill and some of my online friends were writing there and seemed to like it. I didn’t really like having to have all my articles approved by a moderator before I could post, and I didn’t like the way they paid, so I was never enthusiastic enough about the site to post much. I pretty much let my posts sit there and occasionally I promoted them.
Today when I opened my Facebook group The Writer’s Door, the group owner had posted an announcement from the Wikinut site. The meat of it is that after December 10, 2015, they will no longer share revenues with writers. They will only provide a free publishing forum so members can continue to be read. They will pay members who have earned enough to be paid the December 10 payment. One last payment in will be made in January. From today on there will be no more money earned for page views and user activity. New sign-ups will also be suspended while the site is updated to reflect the changes in the terms.
What You Can Do with Your Wikinut Account
Current members are offered three options. First, they can continue to write without expecting to earn anything for it. Second, they can stop writing new content, but leave their content up for people to read. The last option is to delete one’s account and one’s profile and pages. I have chosen the last option.
The owners of Wikinut say they’ve been forced to make this decision because the site was never profitable and because the financial incentive of revenue sharing caused the usual suspects to defraud the site with fraudulent clicks on ads. Too many people were also using ad blockers. You can read the rest of the details in the Wikinut Statement.
This announcement follows one by Seekyt recently that they have changed their payment plan to direct pay to approved writers instead of any kind of revenue sharing. Several other revenue sharing sites have also closed completely in the past few months. It appears this is the direction content writing sites are going. If you have not backed up your work on any sites you publish on, this is the time to do it.
What the Future Holds
If you have depended upon these sites for income, I think you can expect them to produce less in the future. Even those that remain like HubPages are not paying as well as they used to. I think whatever future there is for writing online for income is in freelancing or in owning and writing on your own sites. I’m not even sure we’ll be able to count on free hosting from Blogger or WordPress.com indefinitely. I don’t think we can depend on any site to be here forever.
What are you doing to prepare for having sites you write on shut down? Wikinut, Zujava, and Squidoo gave notice. Bubblews and some other sites did not. The handwriting is on the wall. How will you get ready for the inevitable? Or do you think I’m wrong?
There is no doubt that Bubblews is now dead. Some are willing to let it rest in peace. Some who feel they have been cheated wish they could find a way to get what they were promised and denied. Some are threatening to sue, but it’s hard to get anything from someone who is broke. Many are complaining that they had no notice of the site’s closing and have lost work they had not backed up. Me? I’m sorry I lost almost $50 (one missing payment and the balance in my bank when the site closed, but my overall feeling is one of relief. The wondering is over. The other shoe has dropped.
Bubblews is not the first site to close during the last two years. Many were shocked when Squidoo closed in August, 2014. Squidoo did give notice and made arrangements for members to move their work automatically to HubPages. They were warned to make back-up copies of work they wanted to move elsewhere. No one was happy Squidoo closed, but at least they had fair warning.
Zujava closed shortly afterwards. It, too, gave notice so that members could back up their work to facilitate moving it. Then Seekyt sold out to new owners who made drastic changes in the way they paid and finally stopped any revenue sharing at all, choosing instead to pay up front for work they wanted. I haven’t yet had time to deal with the three posts I still have there. But I have made copies.
I was caught off-guard by what happened on those sites, and others have been adversely affected when sites I had never decided to join closed suddenly, stiffing their writers. The closing of Bubblews, however, should not have caught anyone who was paying attention off-guard. There were plenty of warnings that Bubblews was not going to make it. They say we see best in hindsight, so I’ll share some of the hints I picked up that gave me adequate warning. If you look back, maybe you will see them, too. Maybe we can all learn something from this.
Before I joined Bubblews, the friend who told me about it said up front that they paid well, but would never be able to keep paying such high rates. His advice was to ‘milk it while you can.” So I never expected it to remain the cash cow it was at the beginning.
It was obvious from the beginning that the owners were not writers and did not know what kind of platform and editor writers needed. Highest on my wish list was a decent editor that would let me use bold and italics and punctuate properly without breaking something in the program. When the promise of the wonderful, awesome update in July 2014 was made, I hoped it was the editor that would be fixed. When instead that update butchered all my photo essays and then the administrators took away the ability to edit them so they would at least make sense again, I knew the programmers either had no idea what they were doing, or that they did not care at all about how the site looked or how their writers would feel about having their work ruined. I was pretty sure then that the site would not last.
In the background were always the voices of those who were missing payments, claiming they had followed all the rules. At first I thought those people might be rule-breakers who just wouldn’t admit it — until one of my own payments went missing. After that I knew things were not being run well — even if my missing payment did happen during a time when the site was down. When we redeemed, there was no way — even with a screen shot of the bank page – that one could prove the date of redemption and the amount. It was a wait and see game as we watched for that confirming email in our mailbox from PayPal. No other site that I know of operated that way. On most other sites, you could check to see when a payment was due, and you knew approximately when the payment would be made.
Another Bubblews policy I saw as a sign of trouble was that of voiding an entire redemption because of a violation in one post. In most cases, the writer didn’t ever learn what the violation was or in which post. I knew that I was gambling with my time and energy to continue to write there, but the payoff was still good when I won, and I won most of the time. I did become more cautious, though. After I had redeemed, I stopped posting until my payment email came. That’s one reason I didn’t lose hundreds of dollars. I made sure I’d never lose more than the amount of one minimum redemption of between $50 and $65.
When we all got the bad news about redemptions that would not be paid and lower rates for the future and all the rest that I can’t remember now, I knew the site was finished. Those of us who didn’t leave immediately either weren’t there for the money or just enjoyed the communications for their own sake. I wrote what I expected to be my last post to my friends with the reasons I was leaving and to let them know where they could find me. The plan was to leave that up for a month and not post anymore. I did make one more post to respond to one of Arvind’s last announcements, and then I pretty much went silent unless I was responding to a post someone else had linked to and I wanted to help them with my comment.
Bubblews was a wild ride. I enjoyed it while it lasted. By the middle of July 2014 I knew it couldn’t stay alive. By the end of last year I knew it was almost dead. The last throes took longer than I expected, but it’s now dead and pretty well buried. All that remains are the memories, the friends I made there who I see in other places, and the things I bought with my earnings. I am not in mourning.
Would I do it all again? I think I would. The only thing I would do differently is to make actual complete web page copies from my browser of all my photo essays so I could see which photos I used and where I put them. I have text copies of all the posts except the last two posts — my Swan Song and my response to Arvind. I figured they would be of no value to repost anywhere else.
Did you ride on the Bubblews train? If so, would you get on that train again? Is there anything you would have done differently on the ride?
Not long ago I heard by way of the social media that Grammarly was a great little program for checking grammar and spelling online. How many of us don’t make typos or accidentally use the wrong word? I seem to have trouble with my shift key when typing a capital I, for example. It’s a pain to go back and correct it, and sometimes I even have trouble seeing the mistake when I proofread. I expected that Grammarly would solve my problems. So I installed it to Chrome as a browser extension.
Now I’ve been using it for about two weeks. I’ve had a chance to see it in action. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it. Like most applications of this sort, it cannot read my mind. I have a graduate degree in English and taught high school English. I have also been paid to proofread and edit the application essays of international students to graduate business schools in the United States. I know the language.
Either some of what my professors taught is now obsolete, or Grammarly isn’t as accurate as I am. It makes what I consider to be grammatical errors when it urges me to add or get rid of commas, change verb tenses, and make other changes that would hurt, not help, my writing. I also often catch my mistakes before Grammarly does, and just as I’m about to correct them, Grammarly pops up with a screen to “help” me that gets in the way of my correcting the mistake on my own by covering up the text I am trying to correct.
I would probably be better off editing the document on their website. It’s not such a problem there. When you edit the document on their site, the mistakes are just underlined in red for spelling errors and green for grammar and usage errors. Then you just click the word and Grammarly points out the suggested corrections. If you want to use them, you click their corrected version. If you think they are wrong, you click to ignore them. You don’t have those annoying pop-ups. Here’s a snipped example of what Grammarly did when I uploaded this document to them. This is the first paragraph before I corrected it. To accept their suggestions, I would click on the green. For an explanation, I would click the down arrow. To ignore, I would click the x at the end.
Grammarly is most useful to me when I make mistakes in typing or when programs auto-correct me incorrectly and put the wrong words in. It makes it really easy to change my frequent mistakes in typing, especially in the use of the shift key. It also catches me when I accidentally use the wrong homonym. For example, if I type What do you hear Jamie? Grammarly might pop up with a note that asks “Did you mean to say Here?” I then click to ignore. Grammarly missed telling me that I left out a comma. The sentence should really read What do you hear, Jamie? But if I type Are trees are dying. Grammarly might ask me if I had really meant to say Our instead of Are so I can be aware of my mistake, which a normal spell checker would miss, and correct it with a click. Eight Ate is a humorous way to learn your homonyms.
Although Grammarly might be thought of as a blessing to those learning English, it might be a curse, instead. Grammarly does often make mistakes. I am using the free version and I don’t know if the premium version is better or not. In the free version you are often told you are making a grammatical error by, for example, using the wrong tense of the verb to be. Usually this is in a phrase where I’m using a participle as a noun or an adjective. Here’s an example: The man mowing the lawn is my friend. Grammarly might prompt me to correct mowing‘s verb tense, but I’m using it as an adjective to modify man, not as a verb. When Grammarly makes these kinds of suggestions, it usually does not give you a solution you can click. Instead it mentions the problem, and you have to know the language to know how to correct that mistake yourself.
Here’s another snip from some nonsense I uploaded to Grammarly for correction. I deliberately made mistakes to see what Grammarly would tell me. Grammarly’s suggestions are on the left.
I give Grammarly a “C” on its suggestions here. It missed correcting the first sentence which ought to read James hates sleeping. It did catch me using Our instead of Are. It did catch the error in gets and suggested a proper correction. I think it missed the first error by thinking that James was a plural noun instead of a name ending in s. This shows that no automated program will catch everything. A program like this is only useful for those whose English skills are sufficient to know which corrections are valid and which suggestions to follow. It is a good cross-check to use after you’ve done your human proofreading.
If you are not yet proficient enough in English to discern which suggestions are valid, you need to have an accurate English handbook on hand for reference. Here is one I use myself, Writers Inc. I first found it when I was teaching my children at home and I thought it was the best English writing reference I had seen for the secondary level. It is user-friendly and it’s easy to find what you need. It has a complete proofreader’s guide that answers any questions you have about punctuation, grammar, usage, and mechanics. In addition to that it tells you how to do any kind of writing project you may encounter as a student with model writing examples. It is not only useful for students, but also for writers who need a quick reference. For example, it has several pages of homonyms and easily confused words explained so that it will be easy to tell if you were using the correct word or whether you should take Grammarly’s suggestion to change it to another word. It also explains how to fix the most common sentence errors. I love having this book on hand.
The way you write a sentence makes all the difference in what it means. Be sure you say what you mean. Proofread what you write. Use aids such as a writing handbook or a program like Grammarly. Making one mistake with a comma could cost a life.
Writing prompts can help us get our fingers moving over a keyboard when we are fresh out of ideas. Photos often act as writing prompts for me, but I wanted to throw this one out for any of my readers who might want to use it.
Whenever I walk the boardwalk at Moonstone Beach, I can’t help looking to see who, if anyone, is sitting on what I call “Lovers Bench.” I don’t know if anyone else calls it that. It sits here close to and looking out at the ocean. It is partially hidden by a tree. It is a private hideaway, which although visible, seems to be respected. People may peak (or even take a photo from a respectful distance), but few would approach or disturb anyone sitting there. You can usually see a couple sitting on this bench, but I waited until they left before taking this picture because I didn’t want to cause embarrassment.
When we visited Moonstone Bach on another Sunday, the bench was empty and the light was right, so I took this shot of the bench itself, up close. That is how I happened to see all the hearts and initials. I am quite sure this bench would tell many stories if it could talk. I am not good at making up these stories, since I don’t write fiction. I would love to see what any flash fiction writers reading this are able to come up with. Perhaps someone with a good imagination might even use it as a seed idea for a novel. If you can’t see all the initials and hearts, just click to expand the photo.
So I throw out the challenge. Write a story this bench might tell and leave a link to it in the comments. If you are a member of BlogJob, you might leave a note on my wall that says you took my challenge and post your link to it. If you don’t belong to BlogJob yet, why not join today? I am looking forward to reading your stories.
Pictures and content are original and may not be used without permission, B. Radisavljevic, Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved . Permission is given for anyone who writes a story based on this bench photo as suggested here to use it in their story if they link back to this post at the bottom of the story and include this attribution near the photo where it is visible: © B. Radisavljevic, used by permission.